News / Middle East

Suspected Egyptian Militants Raise Stakes in Insurgency

An Egyptian policeman stands guard in front of a damaged bus after a deadly explosion Sunday near the Egyptian border crossing with Israel in Taba, Egypt, Feb. 17, 2014.
An Egyptian policeman stands guard in front of a damaged bus after a deadly explosion Sunday near the Egyptian border crossing with Israel in Taba, Egypt, Feb. 17, 2014.
Reuters
The bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt by suspected Muslim militants marks a strategic shift to soft targets that could devastate an economy already reeling from political turmoil.

The assailants, who killed two South Koreans and an Egyptian on Sunday, chose their area of operation shrewdly - a poorly-guarded buffer zone in the south Sinai between Egypt and Israel.

Although casualties were relatively low, militants know television images of the damaged bus will help deter foreigners and hurt the struggling tourism industry, vital to the economy.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the first on tourists since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July after mass protests against him.

But suspicion fell on Egypt's most active Islamist militant group, the al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has promised to topple the interim government installed by army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

Last month the group threatened "an escalation to target the economic interests of the regime", specifically naming a gas pipeline that "brings billions of pounds to Sissi and his generals". Several gas pipelines have been bombed since then.

Based in the largely lawless Sinai peninsula, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has intensified attacks, killing hundreds of policemen and soldiers since July and claiming an assassination attempt on the Interior Minister in Cairo.

Last month, a YouTube video purportedly showed an Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis missile attack that downed an army helicopter, killing five soldiers. In the footage, a black-clad militant fires at an aircraft. A voice delivers a warning to Egyptian leaders.

"We tell our big tyrants: isn't it time you learned from what happened to your likes in Libya and Syria and other Muslim states?" said a man identified as Mujahid Abi Osama al-Masri.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is no match for the Arab world's strongest army and may reckon that attacking tourists will hurt the government more than ambushing soldiers, given Egypt's need for tourism dollars to help plug its budget deficit.

The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 scared off many tourists. Visitors are down to a trickle since Sisi deposed Morsi, ushering in modern Egypt's bloodiest political crisis. Tourism accounted for more than 10 percent of gross domestic product before the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Anna Boyd, an analyst at London-based IHS Jane's, said militant attacks on tourists had been on the cards for a while.

"Deep-seated Resentment"

"There is a campaign to undermine the state and of course most of that has been to target the military and government assets," she said. "But really to hurt the state you have to go after its sources of revenue, and tourism is part of that."

The bus attack revived memories of an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s. Mubarak took years to crush that campaign, which included the 1997 bloodbath at Luxor, when 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed at a woman pharaoh's temple.

It may take longer this time. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, unlike its militant precursors, is entrenched in Sinai's deserts and mountains, with the support and protection of Bedouin and smugglers long angered by government neglect of the region.

Al-Qaida fighters have also entered the Sinai, exploiting a post-Mubarak security vacuum, analysts and diplomats say.

"The Bedouin population of the Sinai historically has had a tenuous relationship with more fundamentalist strains of Islam," said the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. "Their deep-seated resentment of the government, driven by their stagnating socio-economic circumstances, created a fertile environment for Islamism to gain a foothold."

Given Sinai's remote, rugged terrain, Egypt plans to rely more on intelligence-based attacks to root out militants.

"We will depend...on preemptive strikes," a military source said. "Intelligence will gather information which will be used to strike against the militants before they can make a move."

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has become more brazen, extending its reach to Cairo despite military offensives against its hideouts in Sinai, a 61,000-square-km (24,000-square-mile) region located between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal.

The Sinai is partly demilitarized under the terms of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Sissi and government leaders often promise Egyptians they will wipe out the militants, but military and security officials privately concede they have no easy task, especially if banks and other businesses become targets, as well as tourists.

"Suicide operations are very hard to prevent," said an army source. "Orders have been given to boost security measures at state economic institutes, banks and government establishments."

Many Egyptians back Sissi, who they expect to run for president and win an election due within months, but some security officials fear the violence might only intensify.

"It is expected that attacks will escalate after Field Marshal Sissi comes to power as militants will then see the whole state as a military-run state," said one security source.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Geoffrey from: Kenya
February 18, 2014 12:15 AM
western inspired and supported jihads are swarming all over.its no surprise.Sisi's visit to the Kremlin hasn't gone unnoticed at WH.we're soon back to coldwar tensions.a gigantic explosive war is not very far off.some pple want it.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid